Trust me, we need more minerals for breakfast

Stakeholder Engagement

Purple 11 Jan 2018
3 mins
We need more minerals for breakfast

Growing corporate activism means mining businesses have to be better at telling their stories if they are to rebuild trust, writes Purple Managing Director Warrick Hazeldine.

 Trust in the corporate voice is at all-time low on a global scale.

As a professional communicator, I see it every day. I hear it all the time from clients — and from the audiences they are trying to reach.

But don’t just take my word for it.

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At a recent event in Perth, political activist Sir Bob Geldof told the crowd that we live in a state of volatility, confusion and mistrust.

“The confusion is caused by this globalism that we’re all desperately trying to serve, in which this ‘lucky country’ dodged globalism’s first big bullet in 2007-08,” he told the crowd.

“Following that, there has been an absolute breakdown in trust by the public, in their financial institutions certainly, in their legal institutions absolutely, and in their political institutions terminally.”

From a WA perspective, the area that suffers most from this erosion of corporate trust is in mining.

If the mining sector were a food it would be the dodgy Brussels sprout sitting on the corner of our plate. It is the thing we try to avoid, that’s good for us but we’d rather not promote.

Given the enormous, beneficial impact of the sector on this State, though, mining should be part of every meal, something to be appreciated — even something to write home about.

For decades, the mining industry has not told its story well. There have been advertising campaigns too slick to gain traction. There have been bad news stories. There have been examples of a breach of trust.

But I would argue very strongly that we have a lot more to gain than to lose by supporting mining.

This sector underwrites about 100,000 jobs in this state, accounts for $72.3 billion of our GSP and was responsible for 56 per cent of Australia’s mining gross value added in 2016-17.

So how do we elevate mining from the unpopular topic at the dinner table to something everyone wants to share?

Here are five things I think the mining industry can do to turn this lack of engagement and trust around in 2018.

1. Tell your story to your friends and get them to share it for you.

As an industry, the mining sector has not done a good job telling the whole of its story. It is loud about its earning and its exports, but too quiet about its investment, jobs growth, social responsibility and community support.

To start that process, mining companies need to leverage employee advocacy and start by telling their internal stories to their strongest, warmest supporters — their people — then provide them with the tools to take that story to the world.

2. Educate, don’t isolate.

I think the mining sector has been shy about starting at the bottom.

Our children know a lot about the emergency services, footballers, teachers, politicians, environmentalists and other people who feature largely in their curriculum.

They don’t know enough about the engineers and the explorers, the innovators and value-creators. If you don’t share the knowledge about the sector and its positive impact, it is unreasonable to complain if the perception is negative instead.

3. Band together.

As a sector, the mining industry needs to come together. We all need to eat our minerals for breakfast – we need to see the sector positively profiled in the news, hear about its positive impact on the radio, and be talking about it over coffee.

Regulators need to hear about these things. So do employees and stakeholders. You can’t expect one company to do this heavy lifting alone.

4. Sell the impact.

Social investment and impact investing can come through the mining sector and our miners deliver billions of dollars in support to the communities in which they operate.

The multiplier effect of one mining worker generating four workers elsewhere in the economy, is conservative.

Every dollar spent in the mining industry creates a $4 spin-off. This is not widely known and it’s an area that needs to be better communicated to win trust.

5: Rekindle the pride.

We need workers to stand up at barbeques, and say, “Not only do I work for this miner, but it’s a bloody good company and it brings a lot more to this community than it takes out.”

In the same way Australia once rode on the sheep’s back, we now sail on the iron ore barges and rise on the markets for lithium.

We can’t demand pride, but we can do far more to foster and encourage it.

This year will be a challenging one again for the mining sector and inevitably governments of all stripes will look to their coffers and wonder why the miners aren’t doing more.

For the sector to continue to grow, employ, educate, invest and thrive, it needs also to market – for it needs to sell its mining if it wants to continue to sell its resources.

Warrick Hazeldine is Managing Direcotr of Purple and an expert Board-level adviser in the areas of investor relations, M&A, crisis and reputation management and corporate strategy. He is a widely-published thought leader on the subject of corporate trust. Contact Warrick.

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